Out of Touch

The Toronto Star is delivering the newspaper on tablet, but its audience may be on a different screen

Originally published March 24, 2016

Turn on your newspaper—and be prepared for a surprise. According to a November 2015 Toronto Star article by publisher John Cruickshank, the Star Touch tablet app is “the most dynamic, immersive and interactive approach to screen-based storytelling in the English-speaking world.”

But just what does that mean? Say a story on a recent Toronto Blue Jays win catches your eye: tap on the glass of your screen, and it appears before you, as if by magic. No more page numbers; no more flipping pulp like a chump. And unlike flimsy newsprint, your Android or iOS tablet is bright and, yes, dynamic. The article you select might even have a video with sources telling you their stories in their own words. This is the newspaper of today and tomorrow, if the Star has its way.

After 124 years in the business of print, the Star has finally shifted its focus to be screen-first. Its new flagship product, Star Touch, hit the App Store on September 15, 2015, followed by an Android edition at the end of November. Earlier that month, Cruickshank assembled the newsroom to announce the iPad edition had reached 100,000 downloads. In a radio interview, editor Michael Cooke said the Star is doing for newspapers what Cirque du Soleil did for the circus. With more than $14 million invested before the app even launched—in software, new hires, training for existing employees, market research—hype is inevitable.

“We are entering a period of fabulous life-changing non-stop revolution,” Cooke wrote in a January 2015 memo, promising the tablet app would be “successful both journalistically and financially.” The newsroom at 1 Yonge Street does look much different than it did a year ago, but the target of Cooke’s rampant adjectivalism isn’t so different from what his organization has been turning out for over a century. It might be made using technology from La Presse, rather than on a printing press, but Star Touch is a lot like a newspaper. And the Star’s newstablet may not be different enough from its print product to provoke the financial and cultural changes Cooke promised his employees.

Read more at rrj.ca.